Blowing his own horn

Dubbed the ‘Paganini of the trumpet,’ Sergei Nakariakov will perform with the Ra’anana Symphonette this week.

Sergei Nakariakov 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sergei Nakariakov 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Classical trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov may not quite have beaten Mozart’s mark, but he wasn’t that far off. The famous 18th-century composer started composing at the age of 5, having already acquired polished instrumental skills on keyboard and violin. Meanwhile 35-year-old Russian-born Nakariakov made his first recording at the age of 15, a CD that included works by Ravel and Gershwin, as well as The Carnival of Venice by 19th-century French composer Jean- Baptiste Arban, which Nakariakov has made a habit of playing all over the globe.
This week, Israeli classical music lovers will have several opportunities to catch some of the trumpeter’s scintillating technique and emotive delivery when he performs four concerts with the Ra’anana Symphonette, in Ra’anana and Petah Tikva between November 20 and November 25. Catalonian conductor Salvador Brotons will oversee the on-stage proceedings, with Nakariakov playing trumpet and flugelhorn, in Mozart’s Horn Concerto No.
3 in E-flat minor and Arban’s Variations on “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s Norma.
In fact the solo spots for the series are something of a family matter, with the trumpeter’s sister, pianist Vera Okhotnikova, occupying the starring role in a rendition of Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor.
Nakariakov’s affinity for Arban is, perhaps, not entirely surprising, and both have benefited, in an admittedly circ u i t o u s way, from the celebrated early 19th-century composer and multi-instrumentalist Niccolò Paganini’s muse. In addition to his skills as a composer Arban was famous for his cornet playing, which fed off Paganini’s virtuosic technique on the violin. Fast-forward around a century and a half and Nakariakov’s first appearance outside the Soviet Union, at the Korsholm Festival in Finland when he was just 12 years old, prompted the Finnish press to dub the youngster “the Paganini of the trumpet.”
But, paradoxically, none of that would have transpired had Nakariakov not fallen afoul of a crippling physical ailment.
“When I was nine years old I suffered a very serious spinal injury,” he explains. “I was in hospital for more than three months and, during that time, I could only lie down and, after a while, stand, but I couldn’t sit.”
Nakariakov’s infant misfortune turned out to be a wonderful boon, and led him straight to his still-evolving glittering career.
Prior to the injury, Nakariakov had, like his sister, studied piano but it seems his talent on the ivories left something to be desired.
“I was okay, but I wasn’t as good as my sister, and anyway, I didn’t really enjoy my piano lessons, and I didn’t like to practice,” he notes, adding that his move to the horn was not entirely unpremeditated.
“Shortly before the accident I started playing around with the trumpet, just for fun.
After the accident I could concentrate on the trumpet. I was happy about that.”
N a k a r i - akov actually has a very strong connection with this part of the world.
“I am Israeli,” he states simply on the phone from Paris, where he has been living for some years.
“We came on aliya in 1991, and after three years, when I was 16, I came to Paris to study at the music conservatory here. I came back to Israel to do the army, a shortened service of just three months. Unfortunately, my Hebrew is not very good. I didn’t go to ulpan because, as soon I arrived in Israel, I started to play concerts all over the world.”
The Nakariakov family’s decision to relocate here was also fueled by professional considerations.
The trumpeter’s appearance in Finland was the only time the Soviet authorities allowed him to perform abroad, and his father – a highly capable tuba player himself – realized that his son needed to have free access to the western world in order to further his career.
Initially, Nakariakov was drawn to his new trumpet for not entirely professional reasons, although he received a sibling push in right direction.
“At that time I had a sort of jazzy image of the trumpet, but then my sister brought from Moscow two recordings by the famous Russian trumpet player Timofei Dokshitzer, and I was moved to tears by his music. It touched me so deeply, and I understood at that moment that I wanted to follow this way.”
Once set on his new avenue of classical musical pursuit, Nakariakov made rapid progress.
“I loved it, and a year later I performed with an orchestra for the first time,” he recalls. The youngster quickly became the darling of Soviet TV and was regularly seen on the small screen.
He also found his own unique sound and style which, naturally, has developed over the years as the trumpeter feeds off all sorts of influences.
“I constantly look for new colors and I get inspiration from the sound of other instruments,” he says, “mostly strings, and I love to listen to piano music.”
Nakariakov’s sonic range is also enhanced by a custom-built flugelhorn he uses.
“It has an enlarged bell which gives the music a darker sound. It is also a four-valve instrument, which is quite rare, and that allows me to play lower notes and gives me an extended range,” he explains. “That is great for playing all sorts of music.”
While Nakariakov spends the vast majority of his long working hours teaching, and touring the world to perform classical music concerts, he says he also has designs on some directions.
“I am working on some projects with a couple of jazz trumpeters, and I have played several concerts with an incredible French horn player, [Soviet-born] Arkady Shilkloper [who has performed at the annual Globus Jazz Festival in Jerusalem], based on something between jazz and folk. That’s fun too.”
But Nakariakov will be strictly focused on classical business when he appears with the Ra’anana Symphonette this week and, no doubt, his audiences will be enchanted by his silkily delivered textures, tones and colors.
“I think it is a nice program, which I hope the audience will enjoy,” the trumpeter observes, “and I think they will find the Arban work particularly entertaining.”
Nakariakov will perform with the Ra’anana Symphonette at the Ra’anana Municipal Performing Arts Center on November 20, 22 and 25 (8:30 p.m.), and at Hechal Hatarbut in Petah Tikva on November 21 (8:30 p.m.). For tickets and more information: (09) 745-7773 and (Ra’anana), and (03) 912-5222 and (Petah Tikva).